Relation Between Medieval Renaissance and Today’s Open Knowledge Dissemination


Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

Relation Between Medieval Renaissance and Today’s Open Knowledge Dissemination

The advent of the printing press helped a lot in the democratization of knowledge and research in Medieval Europe. The arrival of the movable type printing press introduced the era of true mass communication in the western world and this, in turn, altered the fabric of the society forever. It transformed people’s lives by changing their relationship to information and knowledge. It also transformed their relationship with existing authority. It created a new breed of free thinkers, who ultimately dislodged the Dark Ages and brought about the Modern Era. Involving the ‘general public’ and saving knowledge from the hands of a select few brought about a positive change in the human society. Print created the possibility of wide and rapid circulation of ideas. This opened up a new free world where ideas could be debated and discussed. Thus the foundation of the modern scientific fervour was laid.

Print brought the ideas of thinkers,philosophers and scientists closer to the common man and made new ideas more accessible. It is a matter of debate how thinkers, like Issac Newton, could influence the thinking of the society without access to print. It would be superfluous to mention how true scientific debate started only after the invention of the printing press. The writings of thinkers outside the central sphere of science (like Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, etc.) too went a long way in shaping the world as we know it today.

However, in their time, the first printing presses were mostly viewed with skepticism. Barring a handful, most influential people opposed it. The ‘holier than thou’ expressed their fears that the world would come to and end if they let the common people use print. Even those, who welcomed the print, were apprehensive of the ‘ill’ effects that wider circulation of ideas through print could have on the world. Rulers and religious heads feared that if they did not control the printed material, their authority would vastly diminish. They wanted to have total control over what was to be printed.

In the words of Erasmus, a Latin scholar and a Catholic reformer, ‘To what corner of the world do they not fly, these swarms of new books? It may be that one here and one there contributes something worth knowing, but the very multitude of them is hurtful to scholarship, because it creates a glut, and even in good things, satiety is most harmful…(printers) fill the world with books, not just trifling things (such as I write, perhaps), but stupid, ignorant, slanderous, scandalous, raving, irreligious and seditious books, and the number of them is such that even the valuable publications lose their value.’

Erasmus’s fear pretty much sums up the apprehensions of today’s ‘intellectual elites’ and ‘printing powerhouses’. In todays world too, the Internet has brought about a transformation of the society. This is a tool that can be used for free dissemination of knowledge and of research. However, a few people even today tend to believe that free dissemination of research (that results in free and fair debates and discussions of the works) would bring about a ‘end of the world’ situation for science. They are of the opinion that they ought to have as much control as possible over the dissemination of research works in order to keep the flag of science flying. These handful of people have the audacity to believe that they must be the ‘chosen ones’ to boss over the whole of the scientific community. These are the people who oppose Open Science and Open Knowledge movements.

Time has shown us how zero control by a handful of individuals over the society and complete control of the community, as a whole, over itself brings about positive changes. Less the control by individuals or groups and more the control of the complete set of individuals, more is the positive change. The history of the printing press is a case in point. While history made a mockery of the control-freaks, it proved right the few individuals, who believed in the intellectual capacity of the masses. Intellectual Nazism should be a thing of the past and we should move away from such self-defeating practices.

As more and more researchers embrace Open practices, irrespective of the influence of any kind of authority and affiliations, a new free world of debate and discussions will truly open up.

Positive movements like the Figshare Open Science Platform have shown us how researchers can jump over all traditional deterrents and contribute positively towards the development of the scientific community, as a whole. Dissemination of research in such a place should be enough in terms of publication of research. The whole community of researchers will deliberate over these published works and not just a select few. This will take scientific dialogue forward in the true sense. As printed books replaced handwritten manuscripts, so will such Open platforms of knowledge dissemination eventually replace other non-Open pathways of dispersing knowledge.


Book Review: Call of the Lost Ages: A Study of the Indus Valley Script


Jerry Anderson

Midwest Book Review

After deciphering ancient scripts like the Sumerian cuneiform or the hieroglyphs, we were able to gain considerable insights into these civilizations. Being able to read such ancient scripts is sometimes the only way of learning about ancient cultures, in depth. For example, we knew almost nothing regarding the ancient Egyptians before we could read their inscriptions. The Sumerian cuneiform, on the other hand, went a long way to ensure our knowledge about the ancient Near East.

However, all ancient scripts have not yet been deciphered. This limits our knowledge of our ancient history. The Indus Valley script, belonging to the western half of the Indian Subcontinent, is one such yet unread ancient script. Many attempts have been made by eminent scholars and epigraphists like Asko Parpola, Iravatham Mahadevan, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, etc., to decipher the script belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization, but none of these attempts has been successful. Thus very important part of the ancient world history remains hidden to us.

The author attempts a detailed and unbiased study of the Indus Valley script. In order to do so, he approaches the subject from various quarters that include a thorough investigation of reasons for decline of the civilization, a possible continuation of civilization, a possible source of the civilization predating its span, etc. He takes into account the recent findings by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) to chart the relation of its decline with the decline of the ancient River, Saraswati.

The Indus script seems to be related to the Brahmi script and its variants. The author provides a complete list of the Indus signs in relation to their respective Brahmi relatives. A symbiotic relation between the various ancient cultures is discussed in the book. The whole work seems to be based upon sound logic and it draws its strength from the complete rejection of any assumption in the process. The author has a unique way of building upon facts, brick by brick, to build the complete monument. Subhajit Ganguly is a physicist known for his formulation of zero-postulation. He is also the author of ‘Abstraction In Theory – Laws of Physical Transaction’.

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India ranks 9th in the Global Open Data Census


India, by launching the data portal, is heading towards transparency and aims to bring openness in all the participating 32 government departments. So far the portal has 2548 datasets and it had launched an event “In Pursuit of an Idea” and is garnering all the new ideas to address the problems through the open data. In the recently concluded preview results from the global Open Data Census, released today, India is placed on the 9th spot. Norway tops the list followed by USA, UK, Australia, Denmark, France, Japan and Netherlands. India has scored better than countries like Germany, Canada, Israel, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland and Brazil. India scored well in the open data for Election Results and Emission of Pollutants.

The Open Data Census is run by the Open Knowledge Foundation, with the help of a network of local data experts around the globe. It measures the openness of data in ten key areas including those essential for transparency and accountability (such as election results and government spending data), and those vital for providing critical services to citizens (such as maps and transport timetables). Full results for the 2013 Open Data Census will be released later this year. Open Data and transparency will be one of the three main topics at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland next week. The preview results show that while both the UK and the US (who top the table of G8 countries) have made significant progress towards opening up key datasets, both countries still have work to do. Except for the company register data (as like all other countries) and in Pincodes, India has scored well in all aspects of opening up of data. It should take care that the data which is now open should be in machine readable format.

Open Knowledge expert and Ambassador, Sridhar Gutam said, “The Indian Council of Agricultural Research is making efforts for the development of an National Policy on Opening up of Access to Agriculture Information and Data.In the recently held G8 Open Data in Agriculture, participants from India had spoken on the need and importance of opening up of publicly funded agriculture data for increasing global food security. ” The need for greater efforts on the part of the government and citizens in opening up data and bringing transparency is also stressed by Open Knowledge Foundation Ambassador for India, Subhajit Ganguly, “Much is left to be done. A greater involvement of the masses will definitely go a long way in bringing about rapid positive change.”

The United Kingdom and the United States both say that open data is a priority issue for their countries and for the world. US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have both made strong, explicit commitments to opening up official data. In May 2013 Obama released an Executive Order “making open and machine readable the new default for government information”, which was widely heralded as a major step. Over the past few years, the UK has released some of the most detailed spending information released by any government. Andrew Stott, former UK government Director for Transparency and Digital Engagement, who currently sits on the UK’s Public Sector Transparency Board, said: “This is excellent work by the Open Knowledge Foundation’s community on measuring the reality of open data for the most important datasets. It shows that good progress has been made in recent years. However it also shows that there is more for all countries to do in order to deliver the open data vision and it gives each country a clear agenda for further improvement.” Chris Taggart of OpenCorporates, the largest openly licensed database of companies in the world, said, “Company registers are the fundamental public record of the creation and existence of companies. Today we live in a world where large corporations can consist of opaque networks of thousands of interlinked companies, avoiding scrutiny and competition.Criminals, money launderers, corrupt officials and fraudsters routinely use networks of front companies to hide and move money. In this context it is essential that access to the statutory information is not just freely available, but available under an open licence and as machine-readable data. Todays’ results from the Open Data Census show that this message hasn’t yet got through to many of the world’s largest nations.”

For enquiries please contact: / +44 (0) 7795 176976
The Open Knowledge Foundation, St John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WS UK.

The Plans We Have As Proud Members of OKFN India


Credit: Meera Sankar

Here is a list if things that Open Knowledge Foundation, India, would like to pay more attention to in the coming days:

1. Push for Open Science practices in Indian research institutions. OKFN has been promoting Open Science all over the world for quite some time now. In India, we have a lot of work to do in this respect. We have to involve more and more research bodies in the spirit of Open Science in order to see any considerable progress. Also, encouraging individual researchers to practice Open Science too can go a long way in bringing about a change.

2. More involvement of citizens in the spirit of Open Knowledge. OKFN is fuelled by the thousands of citizen activists all over the world, who devote their time and energy to the common dream of a better informed world. In India, there is a lot of scope for involvement of the masses in order to work towards making ourselves a better managed nation. Constitutional instruments like the Public Interest Litigation (PIL), the Right To Information (RTI), etc., lose their relevance without complete transparency in the dissemination of government as well as non-government data. Building a mass-based  system of knowledge-banks can help us a lot in achieving our goal. We can assist the governments for making more information public, wherever necessary.

3.   Push for education.
We would have to work as much as we can in ensuring at least basic education for those children, who are not likely to see the light of education due to various reasons. This is a monumental task, taking into account the gigantic size of the population of India. However, every little helps. Involving the masses can to a great extent result in a quicker transformation of the present scene (for example, we can have citizens making study material open and free and also involve them more in the dispersion of education). We aim to arrange for vocational profession-based education for the adult population. This way, we can work towards uplifting the economy from the grassroots.

Feel free to contact us with your suggestions. Also, tell us how You can help the cause.

Subhajit Ganguly,


Open Knowledge Foundation Network, India.

New Open Knowledge Foundation Ambassador for India

Photo: Productive OKCon meeting with team members from Berlin, Cambridge, Geneva and Bern! Shaping it up!

It’s official now..As Ambassador I, Subhajit Ganguly, would like to have the co-operation of all my friends in order to make the world a better place for the next generation..We can surely fulfill this dream if we work together..Thanks again everyone for all the support and honour..Let’s make a world that is ‘not broken down into fragments by narrow domestic walls’, a world ‘where knowledge is free’, a world ‘where the head is held high’..Ideas and suggestions are welcome..Also, as my role will involve special emphasis on the liberation and the free dissemination of scientific research, I would like to call on and humbly request the entire scientific community in our country to follow Open Science..Thank you very much..

‘It would be an honour to join the team in the chosen position. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for all the support. Together, we definitely would make a difference.’

Read more about Transport Phenomena


Considering transport or tendency of transport of physical entities from an initial to a final point,we come to a similar basis of understanding of various physical phenomena.The trajectory-behaviour of such transport represents the effect or field of influence.This way,we may explain cluster-formation in the universe,an expanding universe,etc.This may also lead to a similar basis for understanding the four non-contact forces of nature.Also,for different ranges of accleration in the field formed in spacetime,we have different properties of matter interacting.This may explain the difference in ranges of the various forces.

Read on..